The Hougen Group of Companies - A Yukon Tradition
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Gold Dredge No. 4

When she was built in 1912 on Bonanza Creek, she entered the record books as the largest dredge in the world. For almost 50 years, this magnificent structure helped turn the Klondike valley upside down and produced millions in gold for her owners.

They didn't give personalized names to dredges as they did riverboats back in the old days. If they had, dredge no. 4 would have been called King of the Klondike. She was built in the summer and winter of 1912, on claim number 112 below discovery on Bonanza Creek, by the Canadian Klondike Gold Mining company. Looking like a huge floating hotel, she was eight storeys high and two-thirds the length of a football field. Massive. That's the only way to really describe her.

The dredge, with huge 16-cubic-foot buckets, could dig down almost 50 feet to bedrock where millions of dollars in gold lay waiting to be dragged to the surface. When she started work in the spring of 1913, it took 300 men to keep the dredge operational from April till November. She slowly, but surely, dug her way upstream into what was then known as the Boyle concession, ground owned by Big Joe Boyle. There, in 1924, she sunk and was out of service for three years. In 1927, dredge no. 4 was refloated and dug her way down the Klondike valley and over to the rich ground on Hunker creek. Here it's said, she dug up 800 ounces of gold in a single day on claim 67 below discovery.

In 1941, she was dismantled and rebuilt by the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation on lower Bonanza, where she operated until 1959. The end came because the gold just wasn't enough to maintain the operating costs. But in her day, old dredge no. 4 had produced almost nine million dollars in gold when the yellow metal was no more than $35 an ounce.

The dredge sat in her final pond for more than 30 years. In 1991, she was excavated, refloated and moved to her present location on high ground near the world famous Bonanza Creek, an impressive reminder of how gold and the Klondike made Yukon history.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin


This 1989 photo shows the restored No.4 dredge
This 1989 photo shows the restored No.4 dredge.
Click for larger view.

This photo shows the beauty of the tailings left by the gold dredges.
This photo shows the beauty of the tailings left by the gold dredges. Click for larger view.

A side view of dredge Canadian No. 4. Date: 1916.
Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #8396.
Click for larger view.


Elijah Smith

It was an historic day for native people in the Yukon. In February, 1973, representatives for the Yukon Native Brotherhood were in Ottawa to present their Yukon land claim.

Led by Chief Elijah Smith, they delivered a document called 'Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow' to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The meeting is often heralded as the turning point for settlements of aboriginal rights in Canada. I was there that day, and well recall that they impressed the Prime Minister with the presentation, and with the ad-libbed words of wisdom from Elijah Smith.

Later that year, the Yukon Native Brotherhood and the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians joined forces to form the Council for Yukon Indians to further the land claim process that had just begun.

Edward Elijah Smith, the son of Annie Ned, had a lot to do with that. He was born on July 12, 1912, in Champagne, and lived in the Yukon all his life except the six years he spent with the Canadian Army overseas during WW II. However, it was in the Yukon that Elijah Smith became a fighter.

By the mid-1960s the Yukon First Nations, fearful of losing their cultural identity, began to organize. During hearings on the federal white paper at Whitehorse in 1968, Smith spoke of being treated like squatters in their own country. He said that Yukon Indians wanted the government of Canada to see that we get a fair settlement for the use of the land.

Elijah Smith was the founding president of the Yukon Native Brotherhood and was also a founding Chairperson of the Council for Yukon Indians, since renamed the Council of Yukon First Nations. He encouraged Yukon native people to stay in school. Many of these students would eventually play instrumental roles in land claims and self-government negotations.

He served as Chief of the Kwanlin Band, Founding President of the Yukon Native Brotherhood, Founding Chairman of the Council for Yukon Indians, and Yukon representatives to the National Indian Brotherhood.

He spoke persuasively of the need for unity among First Nations people long before his vision was widely accepted. Twenty years after Elijah Smith led a group of Yukon native people to Ottawa, they signed the umbrella final land claim agreement, setting the stage for the completion of modern-day treaties for each of the Yukon's fourteen First Nations.

Smith held an honourary degree of Doctor of Laws and was named to the Order of Canada. He remained a prominent figure throughout the land claims process until his death in a tragic accident in October, 1991. To honour his memory, the federal building in Whitehorse is named for him, as well is the Elijah Smith elementary school in Whitehorse opened on September 8, 1992.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin




The Thirty Mile River

The Yukon River is one of the grandest in the world. It flows almost two thousand miles from Marsh Lake to the Bering Sea. One of the gems in the entire Yukon River system - a section only thirty miles long - is now Canadian Heritage river.

More than half of the territory is drained by the Yukon River. That's a lot of fresh water heading into the salt-laden Bering Sea. The Yukon is fed by tributaries from the great mountain areas...the St. Elias, Cassiar, Pelly, Selwyn, and Ogilvie Mountains.

It might be surprising to some, but the Yukon River originates in the southern lakes, just 25 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. Then it meanders northwest for 1140 km through the boreal forest of Yukon's central lowlands to the Alaska border. From here it flows westward for another 2,060 km through central Alaska and empties into the Bering Sea. A long river by any standards.

The Thirty Mile section is a relatively narrow channel. It begins at the northern end of Lake Laberge, and ends at the Teslin River, at a place called Hootaliqua. And the river has a special place in Canadian history.

At its peak in 1898, the Klondike Gold Rush saw more than 30,000 gold seekers, in at least 7,000 boats, travel the Thirty Mile sailing from Lake Bennett to the goldfields. Although Hootalinqua already existed as a stopping place for Teslin River miners, both it and Lower Laberge became very important during and after the gold rush. At Lower Laberge, there was a telegraph station, a North West Mounted Police post, supply depots, and a roadhouse. At Hootalinqua there was a telegraph station and police post, and later, on nearby Shipyard Island, slipways and a winter storage yard for paddle-wheelers. 17-Mile Wood Camp, as it was called, was one of many along the river.

At Lower Laberge, Hootalinqua and the 17-Mile Wood Camp you can still see the remains of the log buildings in varying states of repair. Of particular interest are the remains of the slipways and winter storage facility on Shipyard Island. Built in 1913 by the British Yukon Navigation Company, it is the last such site in the Yukon.

Thirty Mile River
Hootalinqua junction at Carmacks with Lewis River.
Yukon Archives. Frank Foster fonds, #158.
Click for larger view.

Here the 360-ton S.S. Evelyn, built in 1908, lies as a rustic reminder of those riverboat days. It was hauled to shore at the close of the 1913 shipping season. Sadly, the hull is slowly disintegrating.

The swift, narrow channel of the Thirty Mile was the most difficult part of the stern-wheelers' run between Whitehorse and Dawson City. Its strong current, shifting shoals and treacherous rocks claimed more ships than any other stretch of the Yukon River. Simply marked grave sites are found along the Thirty Mile, and some locations are named after the boats wrecked there - Domville Creek, Casca Reef, La France Creek and Tanana Reef. The Thirty Mile was designated a Canadian Heritage river in 1991.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin